Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: Politics (Page 3 of 16)

Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Text courtesy of The National Archives.

An Appropriate Setting

The first few lines from Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech:

“‘We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.’

“Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

“The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

“Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

“And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

“This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

“This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.”

Read — and see — the rest here.

Five myths about torture

An important read.

Actually, it’s surprisingly hard to get anything under torture, true or false. For example, between 1500 and 1750, French prosecutors tried to torture confessions out of 785 individuals. Torture was legal back then, and the records document such practices as the bone-crushing use of splints, pumping stomachs with water until they swelled and pouring boiling oil on the feet. But the number of prisoners who said anything was low, from 3 percent in Paris to 14 percent in Toulouse (an exceptional high). Most of the time, the torturers were unable to get any statement whatsoever.

Link courtesy of

Trade Rice for Knowledge

Like vocabulary words? Like filling bowls with rice? Then is the place for you. For each word you successfully define, 10 grains of rice are donated through the United Nations to alleviate world hunger.

Free Rice!

My favorite line from their FAQ: “FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice–you are earning it 10 grains at a time.” 🙂

Missing in Action IV: Braddock Votes

When making tough decisions in life, sometimes it seems like you should ask yourself “What Would Chuck Norris Do?” This is a mistake, because you are not capable of doing what Chuck Norris would do. So, anyone who was thinking of endorsing Mike Huckabee for President? Don’t. He’s got all the endorsement he’ll need.

Oh, and by the way, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos? Best five-episode animated series framed by live-action Chuck Norris segments from what appeared to be his basement ever. 🙂

ViacomBot Strikes Again

So, here’s the story:

1. Chris Knight, candidate for Rockingham County (NC) Board of Education, makes a Star Wars-themed campaign commercial and posts it to YouTube.

2. VH1’s Web Junk 2.0 — geez, I hate that name — picks up on the commercial, which has become a viral video hit, and shows the video as a show segment, complete with commentary by Aries Spears. They do so without asking for permission to use the video, because stuff on the Web is free, right?

3. Chris Knight posts the segment of the show on YouTube, since it’s neat that VH1 decided to use his commercial.

4. The entity I like to think of as ViacomBot, dedicated to making sure no Viacom-owned content is watched in an unauthorized manner, sends a notice to YouTube to take down the VH1 clip. YouTube complies, because stuff on television is not free.

5. Chris Knight’s post about the whole affair is linked from Boing Boing and Slashdot, which means it will likely be linked from even more places, which means Viacom and YouTube get plenty of unwanted attention and drive lots of traffic to Chris’s blog, which links to the VH1 segment, now hosted elsewhere. It’s the Internet Circle of Life. 🙂

I like the suggestion given by several commenters of simply adding commentary to the VH1 segment, and then daring ViacomBot to take it down. ViacomBot might not be particularly sensitive to public opinion, and the interlocking permissions and business relationships could potentially give it an edge under the letter of the law, but turning it into a fight over fair use could be rather interesting.

Update: Valleywag too!

Shiny New Bullets

Here’s the picture, from Yahoo!

Iraqi woman with bullets

Here’s the caption, emphasis mine:

An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she says hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. At least 175 people were slaughtered on Tuesday and more than 200 wounded when four suicide truck bombs targeted people from an ancient religious sect in northern Iraq, officials said.(AFP/Wissam al-Okaili)

Those bullets look really low-mileage. 🙂

Of course, the scarier part is that she lives in a place where she can get fresh rounds that easily.

Courtesy of and Romenesko.

The Marketing of Uncertainty

The American Prospect reviews two books about the motivations behind suicide bombing as a terror tactic. I haven’t read either, but the review of the more interesting sounding of the two, Mia Bloom’s Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror, has this to say:

Bloom’s insight is that suicide bombing is a tactic used by competing groups trying to appeal to a generally sympathetic population for allegiance in a process she calls “outbidding.” Hence, in both the Middle East and Sri Lanka, suicide bombing is adopted by groups seeking to show that they are more ruthless, determined, and effective than others — and thereby to gain public support. Suicide bombing, in this light, is as much marketing ploy as weapon. Bloom bolsters her analysis by highlighting how Kurdish groups in Turkey used suicide bombing, but found that the cost in support among their own core constituencies was so great that it wasn’t worth the candle. Similarly, in Ireland, nationalist groups concluded they would lose, not gain, support thanks to suicide bombing.

Bloom persuasively shows that the perception of suicide terrorism among a group’s audience matters. But Bloom does not fully account for how such attitudes form or change. As al Qaeda uses suicide terrorism to appeal to a new, global audience, this question takes on increasingly important. [sic]

Actually, when I read that, my first thought was of the Long Tail. It’s not an entirely relevant analogy, but does bring up an interesting point concerning suicide attacks encouraged by an amorphous, globalized organization such as Al Qaeda.

When we think of tactics employed by resistance groups, we tend to think of them as being formulated with a classic strategic goal in mind. This group wants independence and self-determination…this group wants control over land or economy…this group wants this other group to go away. While violence begets violence, and as a result individualized acts might become more and more strategically irrational, the conflicts we’ve seen throughout the last century tend to fit those roles.

But what does Al Qaeda, as an organization, want? Ostensibly Islamic revolution against secular nationalist governments and a withdrawal by the West from influencing and supporting those governments, originally focused on Saudi Arabia. However, the actual efforts don’t fit that very well. There doesn’t seem to be a concentrated effort to overthrow any particular government in the area using coordinated tactics and higher-level organization. (Iraq and Afghanistan are currently special cases, due to our involvement. Before we destablized it, Iraq wasn’t a primary target for Al Qaeda. Afghanistan had the Taliban, which took over without help from Al Qaeda, but there we did see some coordinated action in the assaults on the rebel forces. That ended disastrously for each group, though.)

I’m thinking that Al Qaeda is a truly globalized organization, spread thin and with far too many constituencies to establish real strategic goals. They aren’t The Organization; they are an organization of organizations that are themselves split into factions and groups, many of which don’t agree on or even care about the same things. In other words, the classic conflict of Global and Local.

So what do you do when you’re trying to do something that will work across the board? In Al Qaeda’s case, terror across the world equals destabilization and uncertainty, which puts them closer to having some government fall and scaring the West. That’s the strategy. In that case, without a true constituency with much power over them, Al Qaeda’s tactics don’t have to appeal to the masses they might otherwise need for revolution. They just have to appeal to enough people to keep the uncertainty going. An almost universal media space performs the same function as search; it makes the information available to everyone, and some people will be much more interested than the majority.

Where the analogy breaks down is the fact that suicide bombing is, in general, local. A suicide bomber in Iraq is far more likely to be doing it because of some goal they see involving themselves or their group than they are because suicide-bombing has some sort of Al Qaeda Seal of Approval. However, I wonder if what we’re seeing nowadays isn’t an increasing mixture of global and local strategies and tactics that, in the end, benefits the global aims over the local. In other words, is it about actually achieving any of those classic aims, or is it about continuing to send an abstract message of uncertainty and insecurity? And, if the latter, how much do we in the West, so used to responding to marketing, play into that goal?

Other books on the subject of suicide bombing:

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